Tag Archives: Safe Sanctuaries

What to do if Roy Moore comes to your Church

Roy Moore fashions himself a Christian. His Christianity includes literally making an idol out of the Ten Commandments and doing all he can to harass and malign non-straight people. Now he’s one election away from the US Senate. Four women have subsequently come forward to accuse him of sexual improprieties when they were teenagers and he was a high powered state lawyer. One of those women was 14 when Moore allegedly groomed her for sexual abuse.

I began to imagine what I’d do if Roy Moore came to my church. Then I thought, we do kind of have a game plan. We follow the two-person rule for Sunday school, our nursery has a window for observation (I can see it from the pulpit), our UMYF follows the 2-adult rule. There is known within the church the rules and people to go to should there be a complaint. But it can be better, for sure. Not all of the what-to-dos are actually done at my church. This moment of notoriety for Mr. Moore is revealing some holes in the safety net. Nevertheless…

What to do if Roy Moore or any alleged sex offender comes into church?

Note: I am assuming Roy Moore specifically where allegations are well-known.

  • The Pastor and the Lay Leader need to discretely pull him aside and let him know he’s welcome to worship, but we are committed to the safety of our children and youth. Hand him a copy of your child safety policy and mandate his compliance with the rules.
    • The assumption is that 1) you have child safety policy and 2) you have it in writing to give out.
    • Rules are:
      • 1) He makes NO contact at all with any child or youth in the congregation.
      • 2) He must accept the ministry of an escort, who will assure safety of the kids on premises while ALSO assuring Mr. Moore’s safety from his own temptations.
      • 3) Any deviance from these rules is grounds for immediate removal from the premises, using law enforcement if necessary.
    • Respectfully explain that while he is entitled to his due process rights under the law, the church out of an abundance of caution, must do what is necessary to assure the safety of children and youth.
  • Assign him an escort, someone of the same gender who will stay with Mr. Moore for the entirety of his presence on church property. That escort will never allow Mr. Moore to be alone on church property (yes, even in the bathroom), never allow him to interact with children or youth but WILL extend Christian hospitality otherwise.
  • In your welcome to the congregation as a whole, point EVERYONE to the safe sanctuary/child protection policy printed in your bulletin and/or posted in a public place. Assure everyone that children and youth are welcomed and their safety is paramount.
  • In a follow-up letter to all parents of children and youth in the congregation, alert them to Mr. Moore’s presence in the previous week’s worship.
    • Explain first the congregation’s child safety policy and the church’s strategy in ministering with sex offenders.
    • Explain how the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness is especially pertinent to Mr. Moore.
    • Invite people to share concerns, questions and comments.
      • If real conflict arose with established parishioners, I would side with those parishioners, but would work with other faith-group partners to find him a suitable worshiping community.
      • Barring any such conflict, I would allow him to continue worshiping as long as he remains with his escort and stays completely away from children and youth in the congregation. One strike rule would be in effect.
  • Preach the real gospel.
    • Preach on confession of sin and of repentance.
    • Preach on the inherent dignity of children and youth.
    • Preach on the inherent dignity of girls and women.
    • Throw in a millstone reference or two.
  • Do NOT withhold Holy Communion.
  • Offer all other aspects of the worshiping body EXCEPT for interaction with children and youth.

I’m grateful to be in a denomination that has been thoughtfully confronting this problem for decades through the pioneering work of Safe Sanctuaries and the concern of the Annual Conference to make these policies mandatory. Roy Moore is a sick man who has never admitted ever being wrong on anything. I believe his accusers and his arrogance only strengthens my belief in them.

This emergence of accusers of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, the #MeToo confessions, etc. has allowed me to see how nonchalant my congregation’s preparations are. And has allowed me to hone up on our preparations. Most Roy Moore’s aren’t named Roy Moore and aren’t plastered all over the news. If anything is to be learned from these rash of revelations, it’s that there is something fundamentally wrong with manhood that needs to be recognized and healed.

What do you think?

When Safe Sanctuaries hit Home

Yesterday, I was confronted by an uncomfortable situation regarding my daughter.  I emphasize the word situation, because I was not confronted by uncomfortable people or uncomfortable groups of people.  My wife and I both had to be here at Pastor’s School, she to present and me to attend as per my ordination process.  What, then, shall we do with our daughter (5mos. old)?

When M. was phoned last week and asked to present, she told the organizer that she needed childcare.  He said that he would find one.  Not only did he find one, he found an excellent childcare provider: a woman who runs our very excellent Children’s Conference.  The only hitch was that I did not really know her, beyond her name.  I became very, very nervous.  I hadn’t given my daughter to anyone that either M. or I hadn’t screened ourselves.  M. was very busy trying to set-up for her presentation while giving our daughter to the childcare worker.  Of course, people were crowding around doing the look-at-baby thing.  The childcare worker told us where she was going to go with A. and I thought ‘There, alone, with my daughter?’  When it was just M, me, daughter and childcare worker, I spoke up.  I asked who was going to be with her, etc.  She assured me that she was Safe Sanctuaries trained.  I explained that I knew about that too and that I have no problem with her, but with simply not knowing her.  In a short conversation, she volunteered to go find another clergy wife to be with her.  Because she was Safe Sanctuaries trained, she understood my apprehension (I was almost nauseous with worry), and she knew what to do to allay my fears.  It was good all around: I practiced speaking up (when no one else seemed worried), she responded graciously and helpfully, M.’s presentation was good and daughter was okay.

I had helped train US-2s in Safe Sanctuaries in 2002 and heard Dr. Melton present on it at Shalom Summit.  But until I became a dad, I didn’t appreciate the fear that parents have for their children.  And until this week, I didn’t appreciate just how casually it happens that children can find themselves in unSafe Sanctuaries, especially among church-folk.  Arrogantly, I consider myself among the more aware people.  That was certainly true among the Pastor’s School folk.  I have been beside myself for two days, worrying about how many children are left vulnerable in our churches due to simple lack of diligence.  I really hope I am blowing this out of proportion, but I worry that I am not.